US postal workers say agency's productivity tracking and inconsistent training is life-threatening amid extreme heat

 Due to the extreme heat in Texas, letter carriers for the US Postal Service are facing challenging conditions while delivering mail. In the midst of this heatwave, a supervisor reminded the letter carriers that the mail must be delivered regardless of any potential risks to their health and safety. Unfortunately, a letter carrier named Eugene Gates Jr. passed away while delivering his route, although the exact cause of his death is currently unknown. The high temperature on the day of his death was 98 degrees Fahrenheit, and the heat index reached 110 degrees. 

Letter carriers and their union leadership have expressed concerns about a lack of heat safety training at the USPS and the difficulties they face in cooling down during their routes due to workplace requirements like productivity tracking. Managers at USPS have the ability to track carriers' locations and stationary time, which can lead to questions and disciplinary actions if carriers take breaks to cool down or tend to personal needs. The National Association of Letter Carriers has been educating employees about how to manage these situations and has emphasized the importance of taking care of oneself during extreme weather conditions.

Some letter carriers have reported instances where they were questioned by their managers for taking breaks to cool down, especially when their vehicles do not have air conditioning. The USPS is currently working with the union to design a new fleet of trucks, which they hope will eventually replace all vehicles nationwide and be equipped with air conditioning. However, the USPS declined to comment on issues related to stationary time or vehicle conditions.

While the USPS does provide heat safety training, union leadership has raised concerns that not all employees are completing the training as required. Reports have surfaced regarding inaccurate completion records, suggesting that employees may have been marked as having completed the training when they hadn't. The National Association of Letter Carriers has ordered every local branch to review its training completion records to address these inaccuracies. The USPS has implemented a national Heat Illness Prevention Program that includes mandatory heat-related and other safety training for all employees.

Despite these challenges, letter carriers are finding their own ways to cope with the heat and protect themselves. Some are closely monitoring their hydration levels, while others are using wet towels that are refrigerated overnight to stay cool during their routes.

It is important to note that this summer in Texas is particularly severe due to a heat dome settling over the southern United States. Texas is experiencing one of its most intense summers, with some regions enduring more than 30 consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures.

As workers in various industries demand increased safety measures to combat the extreme heat, it is clear that letter carriers and other individuals working outdoors face significant challenges in maintaining their well-being during these hot conditions.   

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